Windows Vista How-To: Moving User Profiles To Vista Systems

Microsoft has made some drastic changes in Windows Vista’s support for personalization. How will this affect your move to Vista? Learn how you can mitigate the impact with built-in and add-on tools.
Migration Tools
Several commercial vendors also offer migration tools. Altiris, for example, offers several migration tools (such as Altiris Deployment Solution) that not only migrate profiles but migrate the entire OS, applications as well as the profile in one smooth operation. And, everything can be automated in a few steps through the use of a wizard in a graphical user interface. The capture or restore job is packaged as an executable that can be delivered and operated in the background by the deployment tool itself.

The same goes for tools such as the Symantec Ghost Solution Suite and LANDesk Management Suite. This makes profile captures much easier and simpler to automate. In addition, it solves the issue of having to run the profile protection process under administrative privileges because that is part and parcel of the deployment tool itself.

Whichever tool you use, make sure it includes the following capabilities:

  • Inventory profiles without capturing them to support profile analysis.
  • Capture any profile, local or domain-based.
  • Capture single or multiple profiles.
  • Restore single or multiple profiles.
  • Analyze profile usage to help identify obsolete profiles.
  • Filter out unwanted profiles from the capture.
  • Filter out unwanted profiles from the restore, letting you capture profiles for backup and restore only selected profiles to target machines.
  • Filter out unwanted files and folders from the profile capture.
  • Store profiles in a variety of locations: local hard disk, network drive, burn it to CD or DVD as required.
  • Restore profile settings to appropriate locations for Windows Vista.
  • Support either x86 or x64 systems in both captures and restores.
  • Capture custom folders, for example, a C:\LocalData folder for information not stored into the default My Documents folder.
  • Capture legacy application settings that may be stored in the program’s directory instead of proper locations and restore them to proper locations in Vista.
  • Scour the local hard disk for data and documents that have not been stored in appropriate locations.
  • Support automation for the capture and restore processes.
  • Support the generation of automated executables or scripts for execution in disconnected environments.
  • Include encrypted administrative credentials or support the ability to run in protected user mode.
  • Integrate with an automated OS deployment tool to provide an end to end deployment process.
  • Provide reports on profiles to capture in support of workload estimates.
Using a tool that provides these features will ensure your profile migration works as you expect each time you need to use it.

Take the utmost care when moving computer personalities from one OS to the other. Every migration can be deemed a success only if the end users -- the people who will work with the systems you migrate -- are completely satisfied and find themselves on familiar ground once you’ve done your work. The way you handle personality migrations can make or break your migration project. Don’t compromise. Get it right the first time.

Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest are IT professionals specializing in systems administration, migration planning, software management and architecture design, and the authors of The Definitive Guide to Vista Migration. You can reach them at [email protected].

Additional Resources